For decades, women have been treated as second rate citizens of all across the globe. The situation is almost the same everywhere; which is comparable in many ways, with that of racial minorities. Women have been relegated to a secondary position despite the fact that they numerically constitute about half the world population today, and suffer a 70% unemployment factor.
From the very beginning of civilization, women enjoyed a respectable position in society-at par with men. They actively participated in social, religious affairs as well as in warfare. The social, and religious ceremonies often were considered incomplete unless women participated in them.

However, it was their physical constitution which acted as the hurdle on the way to competence.
They became more dependent on men for food, protection, and for their other necessities. It was due to the strong build-up of men who risked their lives in course of hunting and food collection. It is unusual that some advantage is not accorded to the females who are responsible for carrying forward lives on this planet, but to men; most of whom who have used physical power to subjugate others.
Yet, even in ages of strict dominance by males, society has thrown up women of caliber, who could match, even surpass, the skills of men. They made great progress in various fields of life and gained significant achievements as teachers, doctors, engineers, scientists, soldiers and pilots.
Though woman is the essence of procreation in the human race, yet they were fated to be subjected, owned, and exploited like nature whose magical fertility she represents.
During the course of social development, the position of women also changed. When society was formed, patriarchy was established (The rule of the father figure). Gradually, males became dominant in society. They were to write the codes for all times and obviously women were given a subordinate position. A prominent feature of hegemonic ideologies is the projection of the dominant viewpoint as universally true.

Education is a great salve in this regard. To achieve empowerment women are being educated to be aware of their rights and privileges in a modern society. It is education which can bring about awareness in them related to their social status, injustice and any differentiation meted out to them. Besides, economic independence is the major factor which can contribute to educational achievement.

The architect of Indian Constitution Dr. Ahmebad was of the opinion that unless and until women are empowered, nothing was going to bring about any change in their destiny. At that time, the women, in the name of Holy duties were tied up with the bondage of superstitions, which they had to carry till the last breath of their lives. They were considered just a matter of joy and a source of amusement, and many epigrams, aphorisms, proverbs, platitudes and truism have pointed to the naked truth about the stature of women in India. She was, according the Hindu Shashtra, the bonded slave of her father when she was young, to her husband when she was middle-aged and to her son when a mother.

It does not mean that efforts have not been made to bring dignity in the life of women. There has been a long tradition of social reforms by Indian academics and social reformers which include: Raja Rammohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Mahadev Govind Ranade, and Jyotiba Phule, to name a few, who tried their best to bring changes in the life of women.

In this direction, Dr. Ambedkar tried to break down the barriers in the way of advancement of women in India. He laid down the foundation of concrete and sincere efforts by codifying the Common Civil Code for the Hindus and the principle is capable of extension to other sections of the Indian society. Besides, he also made provision in the Constitution to ensure a dignified social status to women. By codifying Hindu Law in respect of marriage, divorce and succession, he rationalized and restored the dignity of women.

In addition to this, the Sharda Act is also worth mentioning. It has set the seal of authority upon the piece of social reforms, which the heads of orthodoxy were imposing and impending. The Hindu Code Bill, which covers issues such as right to property, order of succession to property, maintenance, marriage, divorce, adoption, minority and guardianship, constitutes part of social engineering via law. Needless to say, it was a revolutionary measure.

It was really a first step towards the recognition and empowerment of women in India. This gives a woman right to property, which undoubtedly strengthens her social position. Despite all these political measures, women’s empowerment remains a distant dream in India. Some of these rights, though in existence in the west, are often not enforced.

In fact, political empowerment is a key to development in all of society. It is a must for an all- around development of women. It is the need of the hour to ensure her participation in the decision-making at home, in community and at the national level. It is for the fulfillment of this need that the Women’s Reservation Bill was introduced in the Parliament by the BJP Government. But since then, ruling parties changed in power, and the Bill cannot see the light of the day.

Overcoming inequality and empowering women at work means understanding local contexts and devising solutions to address deprivations and constraints. (UNDP: Empowerment of Women GTT)

Some solutions now begin to emerge: (1).

Eliminating legal and formal barriers to work, which are found all
over the world, especially in countries where education is found in the legal sector and government business. Many attorneys and Administrators are now female, and are encouraging their peers into this sector.

2. Engaging the Private Sector: This particular area is developing substance, as families are often in the same business, in Chambers of Commerce, Manufacturing Associations and other private sector positions; and we now find other co-operative management boards which have women in positions of power and responsibility.

3. Easing religious pressure: This area, that of worship and religious practices has been one in which women were at the forefront of usage. A few days ago the Anglican Church decided to encourage Bishoporics for women, and this concept in virtually a matter of moments and days have spread to the entire Anglican Church all over the British Commonwealth, and other churches in different parts of the world. The Pope in Rome has made remarks which relate to the encouragement of women in the Roman Catholic Church to attain greater responsibilities. I suspect the effect will be world-wide.

. 4. Fostering female entrepreneurship: I think this aspect says it all; In business, professions , entrepreneurship is important for success; and churches, hospitals, even military forces see women in power. Recently a country (Jamaica) considered a woman as Commissioner of Police, with little resistance.

Eradicating extreme poverty is a bold target that will demand every resource. Tackling inequality at work and unleashing women’s full economic potential—long overdue—will almost certainly be a game-changer.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, accepted an EU award in Brussels for the progress of women’s Empowerment in Jamaica.

President of the EU- Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) Foundation, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who made the presentation to the Prime Minister, noted that 28 per cent of the country’s mayors and 56 per cent of Permanent Secretaries are females. In addition females dominate top positions such as Chief Justice, accountant general and other top public posts (Jamaica Observer, 2013)

(1266 words)
JULY 20, 2014
Ramesh Sujanani

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